Set The Score – Render Me Useless


Artist

Album

Render Me Useless

Label

Shock Entertainment

Year

2015

Genre

For Fans Of

Undercast, The Playbook, Trophy Eyes, Columbus

Summary

Real pop-punk that doesn't suck.

Rating

85 / 100

What’s the one thing that Blink-182, The Wonder Years, New Found Glory, and Green Day all had in common? They all had that early awkward phase in their humble beginnings where they had to decide what direction to go in, before they evolved into the bands that they are today, for better or for worse.

Obviously, all bands have to decide what direction they’ll go in, but pop-punk bands have only a few options at their disposal. There’s the childish, poppy, tongue ‘n cheek direction (see All Time Low or Five Seconds Of Summer); the serious, ex-girlfriend hating path (see every fucking single song by The Story So Far); the road that follows the generic fusion of hardcore and metalcore elements (repetition kings A Day To Remember and cheese lovers Chunk! No, Captain Chunk); or the more recent trend of catchy, but angst filled punk rock (local like Columbus and Trophy Eyes for example). For the five Melbourne youngsters in Set The Score it seems to be the last one, which isn’t a bad move as they fit into and embrace this sound wholeheartedly.

Render Me Useless’ is a great EP, but it’s as pop-punk as wanting to use a full slice of pizza as an extra pizza topping (which for the record is fucking awesome). So with a name like that it’s easy to guess what these songs could be about. Self-hatred and loathing, dropkick friends, growing up, depression, being a better person, and *snores*…Huh? Oh right! Blimey, that was dull description.

Lyrically and thematically, this is all so par for the course that if it were taken to seek help, it would make a therapist very, very rich with how many sessions it’d have to go through. It’s not a bad thing to write personally per say, but it’d be great to see a pop-punk band start getting political. Guess The Smith Street Band is the closest we’ll get to at the moment…anyway!

Musically however, the band is like a laser and are completely on point. In a nutshell, their music has more teenage angst and punk beats then most other local acts combined, but that’s not a very detailed look at their sound is it? Well, they sound like a pop-punk band: typically simple and catchy riffs and melodies, big vocal hooks, punk/hardcore style drumming, plenty of feels – the whole works of the genre. But what separates the group from a lot of their peers is that really understand how to write good songs, and ones that aren’t just catchy for the sake of it either. They know to keep you interested until the very end, and as this EP has only five songs, so it’s short and easy to get through and never bogs you down. So before you know it you’re lying naked outside, headphones in, humming along, and balling your eyes out (or maybe that was just me?).

Now, Set The Score supposedly wrote enough for a full-length album and cut it down to the five best songs, so let’s see if these five songs were worthy of being spared the cutting room floor.

First up is the foot-tapping catchy anthem of ‘Erase Me’, a track that has emotional highs and lows with an insanely defeatist mental attitude to it. This song is arguably the (only) weakest link of the EP, so push on through and you’ll find the real goods stashed in the back. ‘Mask’ starts off batting for the radio friendly pop-rock team, before the punk aspects bleed over like someone just spilled a can of Dulux Punk Rock Red onto a blank and dull canvas and that’s when the band goes nuts. It’s also here that singer Michael Romeo (two first names means you can’t trust them) begins to show off his vocal chops, and damn, this guy was made to sing in a pop-punk band.

Six Feet Under’ is where the vocals take a back seat and the great instrumentals get in the driver seat and hoon off. From the snowballing intro of the lead guitar and the drums this track is so beautifully nuanced and dynamic that it’s one of the best songs off the five, and it has an epic, well-structured ending that if you looked up the definition of ‘spine tingling’, you’d get a link to this song. Next up is the EP’s first single, ‘Decay’, a short punchy tune that takes aim at those dodgy friends who just don’t know what’s good for them. Despite the typical lyrics, this song keeps the pace and quality up and doesn’t fall into the shadow of the preceding anthem.

Okay, so that brings us up to the final song, ‘Waste’ (which features Daniel Stevens from the feels-heavy Ambelside). This is a longer, but no less exciting track. It’s also here that the melodic hardcore influences come out, and as a result Stevens feels right at home on it. It’s songs like this that really help cement this EP into your brain as one of the best of year, and that’s saying something considering how good the new EP’s from I Am Zero, I, Valiance and Columbus were.

Conclusion

Sometimes pop-punk seems so generic and dull that it feels like Blink-182 and Green Day helped spawn a whole generation of bands just to spite and bore us. However, if you went to Sierra’s last show in Melbourne last month you would have seen the youngsters in Set The Score perform with their enriched, invigorating pop-punk sound that is years ahead of their age group. It’s a tight sound that is short and sweet, and one that is laced with solid songwriting that has actually had thought put into it. It’s bands like this that come along to pick us up out of our monotonous existence and really show what the genre can do when it actually tries. Set The Score are easily one of the best local pop-punk acts going in 2015.

Tracklisting

1. Erase Me

2. Mask

3. Six Feet Under

4. Decay

5. Waste

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